Geophysical Research Letters

Deformation and eruptions at Mt. Etna (Italy): A lesson from 15 years of observations



[1] Volcanoes deform as a consequence of the rise and storage of magma; once magma reaches a critical pressure, an eruption occurs. However, how the edifice deformation relates to its eruptive behavior is poorly known. Here, we produce a joint interpretation of spaceborne InSAR deformation measurements and volcanic activity at Mt. Etna (Italy), between 1992 and 2006. We distinguish two volcano-tectonic behaviors. Between 1993 and 2000, Etna inflated with a starting deformation rate of ∼1 cm yr−1 that progressively reduced with time, nearly vanishing between 1998 and 2000; moreover, low-eruptive rate summit eruptions occurred, punctuated by lava fountains. Between 2001 and 2005, Etna deflated, feeding higher-eruptive rate flank eruptions, along with large displacements of the entire East-flank. These two behaviors, we suggest, result from the higher rate of magma stored between 1993 and June 2001, which triggered the emplacement of the dike responsible for the 2001 and 2002–2003 eruptions. Our results clearly show that the joint interpretation of volcano deformation and stored magma rates may be crucial in identifying impending volcanic eruptions.